A forthcoming film of great interest to modern design enthusiasts this season is Leonie. A portrait of Léonie Gilmour (played by Emily Mortimer) and her life in Japan raising her children Isamu and Ailes during the early decades of the century. The film, presently in post-production, is directed and produced Matsui Hisako (松井久子).
Filming took place from April through mid July, 2009. Shooting locations include in Kagawa, Japan, Santa Ynez, California, and New Orleans, Louisiana. It is expected to be released in 2010.
Isamu's father Yonejiro Noguchi (野口米次郎 Noguchi Yonejirō) was a distant, detached figure during this period of their lives in Japan despite Leonie's critical support of his published writing when he was struggling to make a name for himself in the United States. At that time, around the turn of the century, she was his editor, translator, lover and confidant. Her support was essential in his efforts to present his writing to an English speaking audience.
One of Yone Noguchi's early successes was The American Diary of a Japanese Girl published in 1902 after being serialized in monthly installments during 1901. It was purportedly the diary of a "Miss Morning Glory", but presented an outspoken, strong 18-year old woman visiting the US for the first time. The book presented her as the antithesis of the image presented of Japanese woman popularized in stories such as Madame Butterfly.
Yone indicated his intention to marry Leonie before the end of 1903 on a plain sheet of paper, writing, "I declare that Leonie Gilmour is my lawful wife. (signed) Yone Noguchi." Many years later wrote of his desire for a "young American Woman" in a poem:
With a young American woman,
I took a walk in New York's Central Park.
(It's now some twenty long years ago.)
"Let's walk in the dark, dark place, " I told her,
And we stepped in the shadow of the trees where no one passed by.
The chill of the winter night pierced by body,
I could not even hear the sound of the wind.
(Oh, how ashamed I am of my irresponsible curiosity.)
I told her of my love for her,
And I even promised her many things.
I squeezed her hand,And touched it to my mouth.
Yone subsequently proposed to (and was rejected by) another American woman writer before leaving the US for Japan in 1904 when war erupted between Russia and Japan despite Leonie's recent pregnancy. He left the US in August 1904. Their son Isamu was born on 17 November 1904.
Leonie and Isamu moved to Japan in March 1907 following letters from Yone to Leonie requesting that they join him in Japan. Unknown to Leonie, Yone had already married a Japanese woman with whom he had set up a household. Thus begins the strange, conflicted story of Isamu Noguchi's life.